Technology Transgressions Common

July 6, 2001 ( - Employers looking to clamp down on unauthorized technology use by workers won't draw much solace from the results of a new survey of tech-proficient financial service workers.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents admitted to at least one instance of technology “abuse”, while 84% spotted a transgression by a co-worker, according to the 2001 Technology & Ethics Survey.


Never miss a story — sign up for PLANSPONSOR newsletters to keep up on the latest retirement plan benefits news.

Most commonly sighted abuses were spotting a co-worker:

  • 68% – doing personal surfing/shopping at work (41% confessed to their own)
  • 67% – using company e-mail for personal reasons (39% did so themselves
  • 65% – playing computer games during work hours (34% did so personally)

Still, while nearly all (93%) agreed that it is “highly unethical” to sabotage the systems and/or data of an employer, workers viewed other frequently monitored “transgressions” less seriously. For example:

  • less than two-thirds thought that “exchanging vulgar or offensive e-mail messages” was highly unethical
  • while “using work hours to network/search for another job” was viewed as highly unethical by only a third (37%) of respondents
  • “Using company e-mail for personal reasons” was deemed highly unethical by just 14%

Of nine employer-instituted measures to curb abuses, only “installing Internet software to block selected web sites” was given a better than 50% shot at being highly effective. Judged least effective was the 7% that cited “encouraging employees to police their coworkers.”

Looking on the Bright Side

The vast majority (84%) believe that technology has done more good than harm in the workplace, and an overwhelming 90% say “it expands the scope of what you can accomplish.” Other positives were:

  • 87% – expands job-related knowledge
  • 82% – develops job skills
  • 80% – improves time management
  • 80% – improves communications with clients/customers

Problems Ahead

Despite a strong positive overall assessment, these workers did have concerns about the intrusion of technology, specifically:

  • 89% – invasion of privacy by business
  • 89% – fraud or abuse stemming from a lack of security features on the Internet
  • 89% – privacy of personal data in computer databases
  • 87% – invasion of privacy by the government

On the other hand, just:

  • 45% were concerned about health problems caused by using technology, and
  • 37% saw increasing interconnection of the global market as an issue

The 2001 Technology & Ethics Survey was drawn from the responses of 1,130 qualified respondents, and sponsored by the Society of Financial Service Professionals, an organization of nearly 30,000 financial and insurance professionals.

To be eligible, respondents were required to be users of a desktop or laptop computer, e-mail or the World Wide Web for business purposes, whether they worked from home, on the road, in a traditional office or some combination of those settings.

See Also When Big Brother Is You